A series of recent Metroparks partnerships illustrates its dedication to better serving the communities they represent and making outdoor spaces accessible to more people throughout Southeast Michigan.
The partnerships include establishing a new physical park space, conservation efforts like prairie restoration and invasive species removal, and educational programs. They come at a critical time for Detroit-area residents who continue to return to a new normal following the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly by finding peace in nature and enjoying outdoor areas.
“Public spaces allow individuals to have fun and make memories,” said Metroparks Chief of Marketing and Communications Danielle Mauter. “They also serve as a big proponent for physical and mental health.”
According to a study published by the National Recreation and Park Association, public parks contributed to a significant increase in mental health among surrounding communities during the pandemic.
“Americans have a largely sedentary lifestyle,” explained Mauter. “We spend most of our time indoors, working, and sitting. Outdoor spaces allow us to break those cycles.”
Metroparks, a regional park system based in Southeast Michigan, gives Detroit-area residents access to a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities. The organization represents about 25,000 acres of land spread across 13 large parks. Its parks feature amenities for every type of visitor—from beaches and picnic spots to golf, hiking, playgrounds, and more! Metroparks also actively works with partners to promote collaboration toward accomplishing regional goals for residents throughout metro Detroit, such as non-motorized trail connections, stormwater management impact programs, and environmental benefits.
“We partner with organizations with like-minded goals to help fill gaps in recreational opportunities,” Mauter said.
One of Metroparks’ partner organizations is the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving, maintaining, and improving the Detroit Riverfront.
Metroparks and the Conservancy experienced a spike in visitors during the pandemic. Mauter said the partnership expands Metropark’s presence in the region by establishing a future physical space within the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park. Construction on the space, a stunning water garden, started in May.
“We are so excited about this space,” Mauter said.
In addition, the partnership is working on joint programming and engaging with audiences the Metroparks have not consistently reached. Their goal is to encourage Detroiters to get outside and provide them with more spaces to relax and enjoy nature with loved ones or spend some quiet time alone.
In addition to the Conservancy, Metroparks also partners with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and Friends of Rouge Park to tackle conservation efforts. One project included prairie restoration and invasive species removal at Rouge Park. The park is one of the nation’s most extensive urban green spaces, home to bald eagles, abundant wildlife, and the 2-mile-long Rouge River. This project also includes a prescribed burn to help restore the prairie habitat taking place in May.
Water Safety Initiatives
About 70% of children in the city don’t know how to swim. Metroparks completed a study in 2021 addressing barriers to swim education programs and water safety. As a result, Metroparks is working with partners in multiple communities throughout 2022 to provide funding and support services to offer free swim lessons for residents. Programs are targeted at improving the region’s safety and comfort around water. Current partners include Wayne County Parks, Detroit Parks and Recreation, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Friends of Rutherford Pool, and Mount Clemens YMCA, with at least three other partnerships in conversation.
The team is also working with Wayne County Parks to bring a Juneteenth event to engage with local communities about the meaning of this important holiday. Juneteenth is a federal holiday that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S.
The Metroparks team will continue expanding partnerships to bridge gaps in outdoor recreation, improve communities’ natural habitats, and expand its service in the Southeast region.
Learn more about Metropark’s mission here.
One of America’s premier metropolitan park systems, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks have served the people of Southeast Michigan since 1940. Managed by the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, the Metroparks are made up of 13 properties in Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties. Available activities include fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, nature study, biking, golf, winter sports and more. The Metroparks also provide educational resources on science, nature, history and the environment. Learn more at Metroparks.com.